Charleston to remove statue of slavery advocate John C. Calhoun, despite SC law protecting monuments

Officials in Charleston announced Wednesday their intention to remove a statue of John C. Calhoun, an advocate for slavery in the early 1800s, from its downtown location despite a South Carolina law protecting monuments.

Mayor John Tecklenburg announced during a news conference that he will send a resolution to the Charleston City Council to have the statue moved to a museum or education institution so that “the necessary and long overdue reckoning can truly begin.”

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“For generations, the bronze figure of U.S. Senator and Vice President John C. Calhoun has risen high over the peninsula of Charleston, commemorating a man who can rightly be called both South Carolina’s most prominent national statesman, and also its most consequential defender of slavery and white supremacy,” Tecklenburg said.

The mayor explained the decision to remove the statute was after a careful examination of Calhoun’s life, and because the statue belongs to the city -- not the state -- saying therefore the city have the ability to remove it.

The announcement came on the anniversary of Dylan Roof’s attack on one of the oldest black churches in the U.S. where nine African-Americans were killed in a Charleston church during a Bible study in 2015.

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After the 2015 shooting, several Republican lawmakers pushed to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse lawn in the capital of Columbia. The effort was made after images of Roof with a Confederate flag appeared from his online manifesto.

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However, Republican state House Speaker Jay Lucas said he would not permit any changes to the Heritage Act -- a 2000 law that requires a two-thirds vote for any changes to a monument. The Confederate flag was removed from the statehouse dome and placed on a monument in front of the building.

Charleston officials are attempting to have the monument removed by saying it is on private property, not public lands, and therefore is not affected by the Heritage Act.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.